Monday, 27 December 2010

Looking back over the year

This time last year we were in France.  Waiting to start 2010 and create our days and work there.  I remember beginning my art again, tapping into online workshops with Suzi Blu and feeling totally inspired to bring together all my paints, visiting a french art shop and talking my way through to buying a few basic supplies.

I haven't blogged for a long while.  Not sure what stopped.  I am reading Oriah Mountain Dreamer's What we Ache for (which I downloaded to my mac as I'm testing out how I like to read e versions and the possibility of a Kindle).  For any of you who has never read OMD, she wrote The Invitation about 10 years ago.  For this book, she talks alot about instilling practice into our lives, whether it's taking photographs daily, creating compositions, writing daily, drawing, sketching, daily.  The word here is - daily.  I have put this to one side and I'm not sure why.  Looking back over the last 3 months, I think I have let it go.  I pushed myself to finish the manuscript and then let it go.  Over the next few days I am going to purchase a new journal for writing and art and begin to reflect and think about how I can move forwards into 2011, how we can both move forwards, Will and I, into the next phase and plan.  So that's what I'm going to do.  Today, I thought I would rekindle my connection to my blog, with a lovely introductory photo of my new easel! 

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Three Cheers - Manuscript has been posted!!!!

I have had a really great morning.  The sun is shining and what a great day to post my manuscript to the publishers. 

After a lovely walk in the park with Lucy, I went first to the print shop. Here I had 2 copies printed.  Then on to the post office, there's normally never any car parking space near by - but today - it was going well and I parked pretty much outside.  Buying a padded bag, there were no customers, quite unusual for this post office, it's usually 'heaving'.  The process of putting the manuscript in the padded envelope, writing the address and sticking it all down when there's no table to do this on - quite a challenge!  

Yet, still no customers.   

I let one gentleman through before me as I wrote the address and then it was my turn.

On the scales - paid for - special delivery.  All quite calm, peaceful and exciting.

I turned round and there was a queue of about 8 people which had just built up as I happily skipped away.  (Well not quite skipping - but I was chuffed!)

So it's gone.  The next phase begins when the publishers receive it. 

Yay to me!!  Well done Julia!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Nearly there

Gosh it has been quite a while since I blogged.  Note to self - I must blog more often.
I have been focusing on finishing the editing of my transcript to send off to the publishers and interweave this amongst all the other commitments I have, it has been a full on few weeks.  

I think *gulp, that I can send it off in the next couple of days.  Every time i read through my words, I find more editing takes place - this can only be a good thing right?  

I have to print out a full copy and also send an electronic version - so I thought it best to take it to a photocopy shop - usb in hand - and get them to print off two copies - one for the publishers and one for me.  It's best doing it this way, me thinks, rather than phaffing about with printer cartridges, being on guard near the printer - 190 pages x 2.   

it has taken 6 months for this process - from beginning of April, started in France, to the end of September completed in Liverpool.   Of course this is where it actually begins.

Jules xx

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Mum's the Word

Another installment in 'M'e Journey'.... this time it's about my mum.... I'm getting somewhere in the format of how this book is going to be developed - thinking about it a great deal, away from the mac, I find for me, this is just as important a time.  
I could write an entire book about my mum with regards to her role in my ill health, she was always there for me; a rock, a support and a barrier to the outside world.  Let me clear a few things up at the outset

1. Mum did not want me to stay at home with her (as people often thought)
2. She was not mollycoddling me (that word really began to annoy me)
3. This was not a hypochondriac's outburst that she was protecting. (Don't get me started on that one).

So if we start from this point you will begin to build a picture of her. 

In the very early stages we were finding out things together.  It was always me and her; a kind of extended couple to the existing household of mum, dad and I, and of course, Benjie the dog.  Mum knew from the word go that something was seriously wrong, this was not ‘just flu’ and she had to fight quite hard to be heard within the family because all the above three statements were beginning to fly around.

“She’ll be fine when she gets back to work”
“Have you thought about taking her to see a psychiatrist”
“Don’t do so much for her, let her do it herself”

Mum always accompanied me, as I couldn’t drive.  (Of course I could drive, passed my test when I was 17 but just couldn’t drive at this time.)  Dad was working, so it did end up that we two would be experiencing all the treatments and therapies, the tablets and the discussions together.  I’d need her there to help me to reflect the words back to me, because I would often be so wasted by the end of a consultation that my brain would switch off and she was able to feed things back to the me and family.  Quite a responsibility, I think.

She was a sponge, just like me, soaking up all the information we could find.  People would often contact us and tell us about their sister/brother, wife/father/husband who were ill with ME/CFS and we would always be on the end of the phone, sharing information and passing on leads to ‘help crack the case’.

She wasn’t that particularly well herself, with high blood pressure and just recovering from a hysterectomy and having to wear a calliper - she really was stoical and got me through day by day with her sense of humour, sense of fun and sense of ridiculousness.  She’d always phone me when she was out shopping, asking if I could think of anything else that we may need.  It was only years later, many, in fact, that she told me she phoned whilst she was out to check if I was ok, to hear my voice and to reassure herself that I wasn’t in a coma.  Now this was way before mobile phones so the good old phone in the supermarket, that has now been reserved for taxis, really did have a purpose.

The devotion from this woman was second to none; she was a true lioness when it came to protection.  No one could say a bad word or anything negative about me.  I see now how this may have impacted on the extended family.  My sister was newly married and had her first baby just at this early stage, so mum would often leave plates of food ready in the freezer for dad and me to defrost and heat while she went to London to help with my sister, probably a good opportunity for her to get some ‘time out’.  I only hope that this didn’t take away the joy of being a grandparent but from the look on her face now, twenty years on, the bond she has with her three granddaughters is a bond that no one cold break.

Mum is interwoven into the fabric of this healing journey because she accompanied me pretty much everywhere, especially in the very early years.

Relationships are paramount when you’re coping with ill health, I know this is taken as ‘yes, of course’ but whomever the main person is in your life, it’s soooooo important for the support to help you overcome what is thrown at you.  Through companionship, humour, determination, I realise that mum played a huge role in believing that I could heal my body, mind and spirit which was pretty new territory then.  But she supported me totally so that I could rediscover myself and become 100% healthy.  Ok, it took about 7 years in total, but she was there every step of the way.  Respect to my Mum and all mums out there.  

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Counsellor number 2 - it's all about self image

There's no order in these ME tales - I'm actually writing about the counselling and therapists I visited over an 8 year time slot - what's coming out is what's near the surface.  Who knows what will be next but for now - we're still in the counselling/therapist mode.  I did see quite a number of counsellors over these 8 years - all helping to understand and deal with this health problem that I was learning about on a daily basis.  Was this 'all in the mind'? No it wasn't.  Absolutely not.   Was I depressed?  Well as a 21 year old young woman, I wasn't dancing from the roof tops about it - hell, I could not clamber up to those roof tops anyway.  No I wasn't depressed, I was doing my upmost to stay positive and find my way out of it.  I was seeking support.  It was something intuitively I knew I needed to do. I never went on anti-depressants even though I knew that this was the only thing left the GP could prescribe and that was really the only thing he could give me.  I didn't need them though.  So here continues the story of counsellor number 2.

About a year later things were no better, in fact they were much worse.  Through a year of inactivity and barely enough energy to have a shower and dry my hair, I had begun to pile on the pounds.  I had struggled with fluctuating weight throughout my teens and had finally felt at a stable weight before I became ill.  By the time I was first struck with flu at the start, I was in fact feeling pretty good about my self and my size – result!

So here I was being faced with an additional challenge of weight creeping on.  No more dance classes; no more gym visits, or even a simple walk with the dog – nada! Nothing!  And so little by little the size of me got to be a real problem.  As I couldn’t shop for clothes, I had to order them via catalogues.  That good old faithful Next Catalogue came in handy, but as time progressed and before size 18 became de rigeur, Next became too small.  Then I’d have to look elsewhere for clothes. 

I was having difficulty coping with this weight gain, so I decided to seek out a counsellor, someone who could help me come through this as I really didn’t want it to detract from the matter at hand – finding my way back to health.  Having visited a local holistic centre, I noticed a business card for a therapist who specialised in body image.

“That’s her”, I thought.

My first appointment was ok.  Good in fact.  First appointments are all about introducing yourself and getting to know one another.  It’s a time to explore whether you can work well together in therapy.  I knew this not by any great massive educational discovery, but that’s how it felt and I have always known and trusted my intuition. 

I explained my problem and gave her a brief run down on how I was feeling.  “OK”, she explained, “next week, we will concentrate on your perceptions of how you see yourself and how that may differ from the way others see you”.

“Great” I thought, “sounds like a plan”.

The following week I arrived – again these outings for me were big business. I couldn’t drive due to lack of coordination and vision, plus sudden fatigue or migraine, so my mum once again dropped me off and either waited for me or went to shop.  I must ask her about that – what did she do when she waited for me during an appointment?

Getting ready, what to wear, this all became a bit of an ordeal.  I always tried to make the most of myself.  I put some make up on so not to look too pasty and had my hair in a nice enough style.  Looking back at photographs, I can tell I looked ill.  Though, the amount of people that used to say to me “oh don’t you look well” would make me want to burst out crying.  It made me feel like a fraud.  Little did they know the heartache I felt when they said that to me. 

Back to the session and I’ll never forget it.  She made me lie down on the floor on a large piece of rolled out paper – wallpaper-lining paper, I think.  She had stuck two pieces together.  She then began to draw around me.  Here I was, feeling so terribly bad about my size and she’s drawing round me.  When we had finished she asked me to get up, sit down in the chair opposite and talk about how it felt to see this ‘representation’.

I was mortified.  Staring back at me was this humungous 'interpretation'.  How could I begin to see what was real when I’m looking at a shaky outline of a figure or should I say what looked like a sweet potato.  Had I been naked, yes, I get that, bra and knickers.  I’ve seen Gok do it on ‘how to look good naked’ and it worked because the client was in bra and knickers and he was showing the benefit of his ‘sucked in under garments' and how they can take so many inches off you.  But this was a sweet potato in a long Next cardigan and black bulky jeans.

I knew at that moment that there would be no more sessions.  Oh I cried when I left, I was so upset at this ‘representation’.  I was also upset at how the counsellor had thought this a ‘good thing’ to do in week 2.  Even then I realised this was not what I wanted.  I know now that in order to gain trust in a therapeutic relationship, those early sessions are crucial.

 Mum and I still talk of this effigy today.  We laugh now, but mum had to help me through that ridiculousness and clever woman as she was, she made me burn it, which we did together, holding one another, crying and laughing, realising that a new day was dawning.

Some people are so vulnerable when going through long-term health problems and it made me aware of just how you can get caught up in something or someone and not able to say no.  Lucky for me, I was able to say ‘no thanks, not for me’ after week 2, but that’s because I had the support behind me and I was also getting used to saying no by now. 

In hindsight, looking back, with experience, I realise what her intention was albeit a feeble intention - she was probably a very good therapist but it just didn’t work for me.  I was paying for this privately and the majority for health and healing work back then was private (now there is more availability on the NHS or via GP centres).  

I felt it best to nip it in the bud, putting it down to an AFLO,

“What’s an AFLO” I hear you say to yourself?

 It’s ‘another f*&^%g learning opportunity - thanks to Andrew for that acronym!

Monday, 9 August 2010

Talking it out in counselling

I realised about six months into the M.E. diagnosis that I needed to talk about all that was happening to me and how I was feeling. This was quite a leap before its time really.  Counselling was something that was normally hidden behind closed doors; would people think the family was failing in some way?  

For me, I knew this was not the case.  I recognised that I could not off-load to my mum because she was suffering in her own way.  She was watching her 20-year-old daughter in an extremely debilitating state.  I can’t quite remember how I came to seek a counsellor.  I don’t recall where I found the information or who told me about it?  I think it may have been the yellow pages!  I was really lucky to find COMPASS in Liverpool, a charitable trust that offers support and guidance by way of donation only and here I met Pam (*not her real name).  I didn’t tell anyone else in my family that I was going as I was embarrassed and I thought it would confirm to everyone that I was ‘not with it’.  Not what I needed.

Entry was by a discrete red door – almost like visiting a secret society.  A plain plaque outside to confirm you were at the right place.  Its funny how times have changed and counsellors advertise everywhere and are so much more open and accessible.

Every week mum would drop me off as I was too unwell to drive and I would sit there for 55 minutes, talking about how it felt to be at this young age of 20 and ill with M.E. 

Ill with M.E; it sounds so strange when I write it now 22 years on.  Those first few sessions really helped me enormously.  Here was a place I could cry and be angry about my situation with someone independent who was not judging me, my family or even the illness itself.  I realised I felt so alone and so very sad.  I just didn’t know what was happening to me.  It felt so odd, like I was observing myself being the ‘ill person’.  Those sessions used to tire me out and often I’d come home and go straight to sleep.  Mum would always be waiting for me outside, religiously, always there, watching my expression as I got in the car, not wanting to pry or be nosey.  She just asked ‘was that helpful?”  “Yes it was” I replied quietly. 

The sessions were a real blessing.  Here I could talk openly and express myself.  I was feeling so left out of the world.  Friends were travelling during their university holidays.  I’d hear stories of Inter-railing through Europe, trips to Australia, Camp America or staying on a kibbutz in Israel.  Other friends were getting engaged, finding wonderful new jobs - Living - basically.  I wasn’t living, I didn’t feel I was living at the time, I felt I was coping with living.  It did take a while to open up to Pam.  She always had a box of tissues at the ready – sometimes I used them, other times I didn’t need to.  I went to Compass for 6 months and eventually felt that I could leave knowing that my inner reserves were still in tact and at any time I could return. 

My first experience of counselling gave me an insight into the profession. Over the years, I would tap into more talking therapies with various counsellors and this really related to the different challenges I was facing.  I felt that talking was a great way to support me with all the thoughts flying round my mind.  The main one being ‘was I going to be ill for a long time?” I realised from all the reflecting, that I wasn’t going to let this thought dominate my mind.  I wanted to get better, to find out what was going on with me.  I wanted to remain positive. I didn’t want this to define me.   I was fighting the label.  Nobody really knew about ME, it was still a bit of a mystery and a great media opportunity to label it; they did, with ‘yuppie flu.’

Counselling was such a valuable tool, helping me overcome my headspace whilst suffering.  It’s something I would always recommend to anyone struggling with long term ill health, taking a step away from talking to family or your main carer and with someone very separate.  Little did I know then how it would have an impact on my later life and I would train in this field so that I too, could offer such support.    

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Writing about M.E.

I've decided something this morning.  I woke at 5am, many flying thoughts in my brain.  One strong one was:-  "I must go back to writing my book about ME - it's time". 

22 years ago, when I was 20 (gulp, is it really that long ago), I became ill.  Flu.  That's what we thought it was, a really bad case of flu that turned up on christmas eve in 1988.  I was living and working away in Manchester and feeling so terribly ill, having no flatmate as she'd gone away, my mum came over to pick me up, pack a few things for me and take me home to Liverpool.  

Little did I know that I would never return.  Never return back to work, back to the flat, or back to life (well at least for 6 years). 

As you do, when you have flu, you sleep.  We're talking, proper flu here, not a cold where you struggle on.   I could not shift it - it was hanging around and the doc thought I had glandular fever, so I had a fair few tests which all came back negative.  (This is quite usual when being first diagnosed.).

It was only by the end of February that I was referred to see a consultant who diagnosed M.E.

"M what?"

"M.E.  It stands for myalgic encephalomyelitis, also knows as chronic fatigue syndrome".

That was really the beginning of the unfolding self healing journey.  I didn't know it right back then but that is exactly what I would embark upon.   Self healing.  I learnt very quickly that nothing within western medicine could help, there were no pills, no treatments (albeit some small rumblings of research and thoughts).  Just the unfortunate tag of 'yuppie flu'.  Oh goddess how that phrase hurt.

I have diaries that I wrote during this time which record how I was feeling, the treatments I had, mostly complementary, the weird and wonderful practitioners I met, not forgetting the personalities in my life that kept me going, ones who made me want to hide and the few who I wanted to award an oscar.

So at 5am I decided I'm going to continue with this writing which I started recently but have put on hold, it feels right now and through my blog I can post snapshots as I write.  It will hopefully keep me on track.

M.E lasted until I was about 28 although at 26 I was able to go to university to study an honours degree.  It wasn't until I was 30 that I really felt completely well.  

So 12 years on, I can honestly say that I walked the path and came out the other side.  I'm one of the lucky ones.  

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Wake Bless Walk Warmup Begin

I decided to create this mantra for myself to get me writing. Wake, Bless, Walk, Warmup, Begin.  On waking, I then meditate, walk the dog, warmup with morning pages and then begin.  However, it's true what they say about procrastination when you have deadlines - it's amazing what else you can get done.

1. make hair appointments
2. choose daily affirmations (see picture)
3. take pictures of affirmations
4. apply hand and nail treatments every 5 minutes
5. research an ongoing painting
6. spray Jo Malone pomegranate noir
7. make another cup of coffee.
8. choose an angel card for inspiration
9. update new academic diary
10.general day dreaming

So that's the long and short of it.  I have 17,292 words already and only 8,700 ish to go - have gone through all the text and now I'm adding some new themes - thought it would be great to have a section about interviews and this is what the focus groups wanted... 

At the same time I'm doing this, I'm also thinking about the next one.. tho' decided to start writing morning pages today to get my brain flowing and warmed up.  It must have done something. 

Time for lunch - well I was eating breakfast at 7am 

addendum; the doorbell rang, the postman has 4 out of my 6 undergraduate prospectuses for me.... that's good news because I can feel a wave of inspiration.  Well done you universities that sent them PDQ.
Bath spa, lancaster, plymouth and staffs, waiting for nottingham, birmingham & hertfordshire.  I picked randomly, from league tables btw.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Writing ~ seriously

When I'm writing, I have to set myself the time and space to do so.  I have often berated myself for not writing in a structured way and I realised only recently that this is OK. That's my way of writing.  

I do need quiet, no interruptions, no texts, no phone calls, no answering the door, just the dog sleeping next to me encouraging me to get into the flow.  

I decamped from my office/studio space to my bed. A place with a view and I realise I need a view!

Armed with mac and reference materials, I went through everything once more.  Every time I re-read my words, I find new ways of expressing sentences and make changes along the way.  What I'm finding is in the editing, I'm actually not adding words but taking them away, which is not the plan as I have to add another 8,000!  But I think it will be ok. I'm feeling confident about it.  This blog helps me as I feel the need to check in with myself, I think I'm the only follower!   Have a happy Wednesday and hope the blue skies are out today. Finally here in Liverpool we have blue skies and the torrential downpour has receded.  Love xx

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Structure & Timetabling!

I go through phases of writing.  Sometimes I will have a pen in my hand and write in my journal, other times, I'll be typing away on the keyboard.  Now I have to get structured and write, write, write.  One of the dilemmas writers face is not writing.  Not routinely writing.  I sat down yesterday with my other half and we worked out a schedule.  I know I am a great coach with other people, but I have difficulties coaching myself!  That's were significant other comes in.  We organised a timetable for me to stick to.  My deadline is the first of September so I have approximately 6 weeks.  Of course I have taken into account all the other commitments too. 
What I need to do is begin my morning pages as I find these really helpful.  I would write them here in my blog but it tends to be unconscious thoughts and gobbledygook - not for public display.  So I'm going to go walk the dog, recite my positive affirmations and get cracking. Wake Bless Walk Warm-up Begin. I'll check back in later and tell you how I'm doing xx

Saturday, 3 July 2010

L'adventure de Francais

I have been working on this piece which is a symbolic mixed media painting of our l'experience de français.  There's so much in there, papers that I bought from the brocante, the photocopied map of 10 pages of the journey from champagne-le-sec to calais, plus some lovely french words and music. I'm particularly loving how my car looks. She's called muriel because she's a citroen C3 pluriel.  I'm loving that.  I never profess to being good at drawing people exactly how they look, so apologies other half for looking a little like liam gallagher.  You look much more handsome in real life!!! 

I'm now contemplating my next piece so I'll carry on sketching and see what presents heh? 

Lovely little D in the front of the frame, in her usual pose of begging - you just don't know when there's come fresh fruit and veg available from the allotment to graze upon, she's always prepared.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

79 days to complete my manuscript

From 1st July I have 79 days to complete my manuscript to send to publishers, well that the exact number of days but in reality it's less than this.   I have the bulk of it already written and the formula is in place, however now to add to it and fulfil the next 10,000 words.  So I think i can safely say that we're looking at at least 62 days, which gives me the month of July and the month of August, then by September, I can continue to edit and then post it all off, hardcopy and word format.  

It's really exciting to be moving into the final stage of writing - things feel like they're coming together.  A few more components to fit into place and then I can carry on writing.  Am I the new Carrie Bradshaw,  well the subject matter is different!  (I'm only writing that as I saw SITC2 a few weeks ago!)

I had a good look in and really love it.  


Monday, 28 June 2010

French handbag

It has been a a good couple of weeks since I wrote here.  I got locked out of my google account as someone had tried to get in and so google froze it, so then when I reset my new password, I then forgot it.  D'oh!  All back on track now - and ready for regular posts.  
I'm feeling a little like the france experience is drifting and I am doing my upmost to hang on to it and keep the creativity alive.  All things considered from readjusting, I think I'm doing pretty well, I have to remind myself.  Hence, the photo of my french bag here.  I bought this to contain all my sketching stuff, prismacolour pencils, rulers, scissors, cellotape, pens for writing, it's a lovely size and just like a small handbag.  I'm posting it here so as to remind me of just who I discovered. x~x~x

Saturday, 12 June 2010

TArget REached - Yay!

As you know the challenge I set myself was to write my handbook for writing personal statements in the time I was in France - I had collected so many notes over the years and the idea had formulated and stewed for a great while, but I did it.  On the Friday before I set off back home to the UK, I sent off a submission proposal to a publisher and the other day I heard that they liked it.  They can see it will compete favourably with other titles in the personal statement range.  I'm chuffed.  More so about the fact that I set myself the challenge and I achieved.   At the outset I was going to self publish, so didn't put any expectations on myself - it was only at the latter stage that I began to ponder "I wonder if this would be of interest to publishers?" That's when I dug out my Writers and Artists Year Book 2010 and found them.  It's still early days and more to add to so keeping fingers crossed all things will work ok.  I have focus groups this coming week which I'm going to do with two schools, hoping to get a third, then I can glean some real life case studies and questions that they want answered in the book.  Exciting times.  Just need a sexy title now : )

Now to the next idea of writing my healing book about ME. (by M.E. I mean, myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome which I had in my 20s) .... that's been brewing for 20 years!!

Now the world cup has begun, I'm going to spend time art-ing and musing - got my latest one to finish and I found some lovely napkins yesterday in netto to collage on a layer.  I got the idea from France as they're really into using napkins as paper.  £1 from netto not bad heh!?!?  

Note to self:  Write in blog more often as it's self directed check ins that I need!!!

Have a beautiful day - it's gorgeous here ...bisous xx

Monday, 31 May 2010

An afternoon spent Art-ing, musing and playing

I spent a very delicious afternoon with my muse, creating, playing with paint, colour, collage papers and poetry.  This particular picture has been in my head for a while now - creating a visual that symbolises our time in France.  I had collected a few bits of papers from my trip to the brocante where I bought old newspapers and university journals from 1918 & 1937, plus stamps of letters sent home. Not wanting to ruin them by cutting/tearing them up (they're also a great source of reference), I colour copied the pages I wanted.  You can see within the piece Journal 'L'Universitie des Annales, plus I found a beautiful little piece of music entitled "Les Trois Princesses" so I thought this would have to be Me, Lucy and Muriel (muriel's my car, a C3 pluriel) and I then added, et Le Prince (that being Will).  It's not finished by any means, but I'm really loving it.  It evokes France for me.  As I photocopied the pages from my french map to help with the journey from Champagne--le-Sec to Calais, I used these pages to collage into it, showing the journey taken by the main towns along the route.   So I'll update when this is finished.
So Will has created a raised bed on the allotment which he's called The Salad Bowl and I wanted to make a sign for it.  It's a great collection of different lettuces, raddish, purple carrots, spring onions and here's the finished sign.  I had an off-cut of mdf which suited it perfectly.  Having no real brief I just  messed with colour and this is what happened.  What I loved about doing this, (I started by doing this one first) was it got me and my muse playing, almost like playing scales on a piano to warm up, or stretching before exercising.  Nothing to prove, just colour and fun.  Will loves it to say the least.

I think I have shown my 'deesse francais' here before but I added another layer yesterday by popping the yes and adding the words.  She needs something extra, not sure what right now, so letting her 'be' and it will come to me over the next couple of weeks.  

Below is a painting I have let 'rest' for a good few months, was not really sure where it was going, but yesterday, picked her up again and added colour, embellishments with stars.  I like the way it's coming along now and will add further layers over the next few weeks.  The one on the left is how she began.  
I'm so enjoying the musing, it is helped so much by having turned our second bedroom into my art studio/office work space.  It's multi tasking space and albeit a small area, I'm so grateful to have this allocated room.  I can go in there and shut the door (which I'm sure I'll be doing when the world cup starts - not all the time, I do like a game of footie, but not all the time!).  Will said to me yesterday "can you imagine if you had your own studio space, all just for this, wooden floors, massive windows overlooking the sea?"    
Ah, sounds wonderful -  I know it's not out of my reach.  I just have to make it happen. Happy BH Monday x~x~x

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Sipping mint tea and setting myself a new challenge

Whilst sipping my current favourite mint tea (with mint leaves pulled fresh from the garden) I realised that I wanted to set myself another challenge.  I had read back over my blog posts from 30 March and realised that keeping a blog was a great way for me to 'check in' with myself and to see how I'm doing, writing, creating, art-ing (+not farting).  I remembered how I felt beginning (and nearly completing) to write my Personal Statement Handbook, it took over from my original intention, to write a book about my M.E experiences when I was in my 20s.  So now it's time to revisit the ME pink book - do I remember what it looks like, well here it is.  It's time to get back to it.  I'm delighted I have my Handbook because it really complements the work that I do, but my new challenge is to keep following in this direction of writing daily and I know that no sooner as I start writing, it all comes flooding out.  Thank you everyone who's supported me, in particular a wonderful retired english teacher who I've know since I was oooh, let me see, 4 (we're talking 38 yrs ish) known as AN, and she wrote on my fb page today 
"I recognise good stuff when I read it.  You know English was my subject, I am immodest enough to tell you I have a way with words...........SO DO YOU.   Every success to you.  I really enjoyed reading the Blog update!!!"
So thanks AN, it has inspired me to continue.  Plus my friend Lesley's nail varnish yesterday reminded me of the colour of my book, so I must go and buy 3 for the price of 1 at Tescos.  Agggghhhhhhh the joy of supermarkets that have offers! (pas en france).

My 2 favourite people

I have been home just over a week now and in re-grounding myself I've been lucky to have some fab weather - well we all have.  Sitting on my hammock was one of the most loveliest things ever and it made me realise just how lucky I am. (Lucy loves Hammock too, see below!)  She's adapted so well to being back and she has a spring in her step whenever I take her out to the park, she's totally tickled pink when we go to her old haunts. Reynolds, Calderstones, Childwall Woods.  She hasn't left Cornishman's side and follows him around everywhere.  Let's not dispute that he is the holder of the allotment key, a place she loves to go as there's so much grazing opportunity there.  Boy when those radishes take off, she'll be waiting by the door to go

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Bonjour Liverpool

After 2 days of travelling, 720 miles door to door, Lucy and I arrived back in Liverpool.  I feel like I have completed a rite of passage, some kind of initiation.  I feel so great at having done this and need to remember always that it was a great achievement.  The stages from visiting the Vet for Lucy's flea/tick preparation, Pet Passport stamped, to setting off to a teary farewell from Champagne-le-Sec, and stopping along the way at various aire de repose (rest area), walking Lucy, buying coffee, eating my preprepared sarnies.  It was just all go, go, go.  We stopped about 4 times before we got to Calais, and it gave us both time to stretch our legs, have a wee and basically not drive.  Lucy was an absolute angel.  I could not have wished for a more calm passenger.  No hassle from her whatsoever.  The only time she got a bit excited was as we neared Calais and she could smell the sea.  She's a real sea dog and loves being in water.  So she suddenly woke up and was panting, looking out the window.  Cute really.  
Once in Calais, we found the hotel really easily - Formula 1 - not sure if any peeps have stayed here, but I won't be staying again.  The room was fine, the pillows were nice and only €32 euros for me and €3 for Lucy, very good price, but no toilet or shower in the room.  Little did I know that this is the 'concept' of F1 hotels and I didn't notice on booking it.   They have 3 or 4 showers and 2 toilets per 8 rooms.  Now, I'm not saying I'm a snob, far from it, but when a coach party descends with masses of young people, I was lucky to just nip in and use them.  Not ideal and won't be doing that again.  Lucky for us there was Sky, so I was able to watch the Dorothy results show and also a little bit of Worried about the Boy but soon fell asleep.  We both did.  We were bushed.  
Pet passport check-in was a doddle and really pleased with that (defo do that again), so was booking into Euro tunnel, but there was a half hour delay - but all in all very smooth just waiting in the car - drive on, wait for 35 mins and then disembark.  Welcome to Folkestone.  We had to go straight to get the car MOT'd in Ashford (it passed thankyougoddess) and then to DVLA in Maidstone for my tax disc (it had ran out end of Feb!) and I ended up taking Lucy in with me to the DVLA, the sun was too strong and I wasn't leaving her in the car for possibly an hour.  Again, she was just soooo good.  She sat waiting for me as I was at the counter, and she brought a smile to everyone's face as they entered and left.  Dogs can do that, of course, babies do it too!  And then we were all taxed and ready to continue home to Liverpool.  
What a great feeling it was to get home.  Slightly disorientating at first, the body arrives and the brain comes a bit later, but lovely weather, a cup of tea and straight back to sitting on our lovely hammock.  Lucy felt at home straight away, you can tell and we were so delighted to see Will - Just lovely.  Vegetarian pasties for dinner -what more can a girl ask for!!???  
Now I have the task of unpacking, reorganising and finding space for things.  We gave alot of our storage furniture away, like chest of drawers, wardrobes.  But what I've learnt from being in france is less is more.  The more you have around you, the less you use it.  Anyway, I must press on and get going.  The weather is beautiful here and I'm blessed to be healthy.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Au Revoir France

Well it is the night before I leave for Calais.  All things are packed, the car is full of petrol, oil, water, tyres all checked.  We've said our goodbyes to most people, places and memorable spots.  Lucy has been to the Vets for her flea/tick preparation so we're ready for pet passport control.  I have written 6 pages of reflection on these last 5 months and what it has been to me.  I suddenly realised half way through that I have never been away like this before.  Never travelled when I was younger and lived in a different country.  This was my mini gap year.  I am blessed and very privileged to do this and I have learnt so much about myself and about my purpose.

Leaving friends, Lynn and Tony, who have been so lovely, I decided that I was going to paint them a picture.  It suddenly dawned on me what I wanted to draw.  Lucy spends 50% of her time over at their house, she's in love with Sandy, the cute rescue dog, although you'd never can tell as she bosses him around.   So as both LandT run an association over here called La Porte Ouverte (Open Door) they really live by that too.  So I finally gave them the painting and they were chuffed to bits!!  They're going to make it into a greeting card and sell it for charity in Open Door.  I'm really delighted.  I have  my first greeting card design!

Anyway tomorrow Lucy and I have about 600 kms to Calais where we're staying over night in a doggy friendly place.  Then through tunnel and back to Blighty.  I'll carry on creating, writing and producing! 

au revoir et à bientot xx

Saturday, 8 May 2010

One week and counting

In just 1 week I will be packing my car and heading off, dog in passenger seat (with seat belt on, I might add) to Calais.  Driving about 600 kms from Civray in the Poitou-Charentes region of France to Calais.  We're staying over night in a hotel, me and mutt sharing a room, that will be fun, I know it, she's such a great bedtime companion!!  Then, it's off to Pet Passport Control for the check of her microchip, flea/tick preparation by the Vet and signed passport - this is going to be a real experience.  We're loving it!  
My entire time in France has been an adventure from the moment I arrived in December.  I jumped and here I find myself in the land of the romance language.  I feel I've got to grips with the lingo quite well.

Yesterday, I went for a walk down by the river with the infamous Jack Russell, and as she was doing her 'thang' and exploring the waters' edge, we spied a fisherman.  He seemed very chatty - obviously, we're talking, french chatty here.   We shake hands, he says "Bonjour, comment-allez-vous?", "Oui bon, et vous? I replied.   Bless him, he was bright red, looked like a bottle of red wine (a bit too much I might add) and he smelt like a bottle of red too.  However for the next 5 minutes or so, we stood, and we talked.  Me in my cute french.  I asked if he fished there often (can you believe that chat up line).  He asked if I had a husband? Maybe he had someone for me?  He noticed my bright orange car and asked what it was?  We talked, we communicated and I felt good that I could understand him and he understood me. 

I asked him - vous comprendez moi?  "oui, tres bon, c'est d'accord".  

I left, on my way to the supermarche, feeling quite good.  After 5 months, I held a conversation with a drunken fisherman.  I'm chuffed.  It makes me proud..

I shall miss the space, the landscape, the fields of green and the lack of speed bumps.  I've had nearly 7 weeks of solitude and I'm now looking for interaction and my friends.  My time here has been really productive, wonderful, learning, growing, developing, and after the year of 2009, that's a good thing.  I'm blessed and very grateful for grabbing this opportunity when it arose - some of it may have gone a bit pear shaped however I'm going to remember every ounce of it and breathe deeply as I get in my car to head off up the N10 to Calais.  Who'd have thought I'd be driving all that way on my own.  Well, not exactly on my own, I have an excellent map reader - albeit the furry 4 legged variety - but they know where they're going. xx

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